Trying to pick a career can be a daunting task. You have to take into account job satisfaction, earnings potential and development prospects, not to mention whether or not you’re qualified for the job.
If you have a caring nature and an aptitude towards STEM subjects, however, then why not consider a career in the medical field? There are numerous roles available, and not all of them require you to spend eight-plus years at university. Indeed, many of the occupations on offer in this sector are highly rewarding, pay well and provide plenty of room for professional growth.
So, if you want to know what kind of role could be right for you, then read on; these are the 10 best careers in healthcare.
Doctors are highly qualified medical professionals who specialise in a particular field of medicine, such as surgery, emergency medicine or general practice. They are the highest clinical authority within a healthcare environment and are responsible for diagnosing and managing the treatment of sick or injured patients.
In order to practise medicine, you would need to get accepted into – and successfully complete – medical school, which usually takes between four and eight years. Depending on your chosen specialism, you would then also need to complete additional training. Some of the top medical schools include Johns Hopkins University, the University of Oxford and the Karolinska Institute.
As well as meeting strict educational criteria, doctors must also possess a unique set of skills, including communication, diplomacy and the ability to solve problems. On the plus side, doctors – and surgeons, in particular – are the highest paid professionals in the healthcare sector, especially in Luxembourg, Switzerland and the US.
If doctors are the clinical leads, then nurses are the backbone of the entire global healthcare system, providing vital care and treatment to patients. Like doctors, they also tend to specialise in a particular area, such as intensive care, emergency medicine or paediatrics.
Although in some countries nursing qualifications are still vocational, the occupation has become increasingly professionalised in recent years. In the UK, for example, nurses must now possess an accredited nursing undergraduate degree in order to become registered, while you would need at least an associate’s degree on your résumé in the US. Some of the top schools for nursing include King’s College London, the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Toronto.
Like doctors, nurses also need to possess a highly developed skillset; in particular, they need to be caring and compassionate and able to multitask effectively. There is plenty of scope for progression and specialisation (such as becoming a midwife, for example), while nurse salaries across the globe – especially in Luxembourg, Iceland and the US – are generally favourable.
If you’d prefer to mix chemicals and compounds rather than mix with patients, then becoming a pharmacist could be a viable option. In the commercial and healthcare sector, they are responsible for reviewing, dispensing and advising on the prescription and distribution of drugs, although they can also work on developing new drugs within the industrial sector.
In order to practise as a licensed pharmacist, you would need a Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) degree or an equivalent, such as MPharm. Typically, this requires between five and six years of study, depending on your location. Some of the best pharmacy schools include University College London, the University of North Carolina and Monash University.
Pharmacists require a specific set of skills, too. Above all else, they need to be diligent, possess a strong attention to detail and be able to communicate with both patients and other health professionals.
If you are interested in how the musculoskeletal system works and, in particular, how human behaviour and activity affects its performance, then a career in physiotherapy could be a wise choice. Physiotherapists – or physical therapists, as they are better known in the US – work primarily in the rehabilitation stage of a patient’s care and treatment, helping to overcome injury or cope with a debilitating condition.
In the US, physical therapists must hold an accredited Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree, you would need to hold relevant undergraduate and master’s-level degrees in order to become registered in the UK. You would also need to demonstrate patience, enthusiasm and strong motivational skills when working with patients.
While most of the occupations on this list involve working within a hospital or a medical facility, paramedics are expected to do their thing in all kinds of diverse surroundings – and in all weathers, too. They respond to emergency callouts in ambulances and other vehicles, often performing life-saving interventions on roadsides and in living rooms.
Like nursing, paramedicine has become increasingly professionalised in recent years. Most UK paramedics are now encouraged to hold an accredited undergraduate degree (although there are exceptions), while in the US you would generally need at least an associate’s degree (state regulations vary).
Paramedics also need to be robust, capable of quick thinking and able to make snap decisions in high-pressure situations.
If you’d prefer a more serene day-to-day environment, then you could consider becoming a dentist. They are responsible for treating and advising on the care of teeth, including performing routine maintenance and more specialised procedures such as removals and fillings.
Dentists must complete an accredited dentistry programme, which can last between five and eight years depending on location and provider. Some of the top dental schools include King’s College London, Harvard University and the University of Michigan.
You’ll also need to demonstrate an array of suitable skills, too, including communication, attention to detail and, of course, manual dexterity.
Also sometimes referred to as nutritionists (although there are subtle differences), dietitians are health professionals who are experts in dietary management. They work closely with patients who are suffering from cardio-related health issues and who require significant dietary changes. That said, they also work with diabetics and patients with other diet-related conditions, as well as people who simply want to lose or gain weight.
To become a dietitian, you’ll need to complete an approved undergraduate or bachelor’s degree, followed by accreditation from the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) in the UK or the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR) in the US. You’ll also need to be a good communicator, as well as capable of demonstrating tact and the ability to motivate.
Not to be confused with radiologists (doctors that specialise in radiology), radiographers – or radiologic technologists, as they are known in the US – are the people who are responsible for taking and assessing X-rays (as well as other types of scans).
In the UK, radiographers require a HCPC-approved undergraduate degree, while in the US they must possess at least an associate’s degree, a prerequisite for sitting the certification exams of the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT). They must also be strong communicators with good interpersonal skills, as well as be safety-conscious and extremely diligent.
9. Biomedical Scientist
Much of modern diagnostics is built upon what can be learned within the laboratory, and so a career in biomedical science can be highly rewarding. Although there are dozens of different – but highly important – roles within clinical labs, ‘biomedical scientist’ can be used as a catch-all term to describe those who spend their days studying cells and attempting to find the cure for various illnesses, such as cancer.
Although there are roles within hospitals analysing samples and cultures, many scientists work within academia or for large pharmaceutical companies. Generally, they possess an undergraduate or bachelor’s degree in biology (or a related field), with many holding further postgraduate qualifications related to their specific role.
Again, ‘therapist’ is something of a catch-all term for a wide variety of therapy forms. Although in popular culture ‘therapist’ often refers to a psychiatrist (a specially trained doctor), this is not the case, and most therapists do not need to go to medical school.
For instance, some examples of different types of therapists include:
- massage therapist
- play therapist
- drama therapist
- laser therapist
- expressive writing therapist
Some of these therapies are used to treat physical conditions (such as massage and laser therapy), while others are designed for patients who are experiencing mental health symptoms, such as depression or anger issues.
The qualifications required for these roles vary, although they are drawn from various backgrounds, and therapists can work in a variety of clinical and non-clinical environments, such as schools, prisons or private clinics.
As you can see, there is something for everyone in the healthcare sector – and these roles are just scratching the surface! There are numerous administrative and logistical positions, such as in medical coding or couriering, for instance, while there’s a whole host of scientific careers that are closely linked to healthcare.
In the meantime, what healthcare career appeals to you? Let us know in the comments below!
This article is an updated version of an earlier article originally published on 24 November 2017.